Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review- Rules For A Lady (A Lady’s Lesson, book1) by Jade Lee

Title: Rules For A Lady (A Lady’s Lesson Book 1)

Rules For A Lady

Genre: Historical Romance
Author: Jade Lee
Publisher: e-publishing works, 2012
Source: Kindle Free
Rating: 4
Sexy Rating: 3
Description from amazon.com:
If a lady is to become a Countess, there are rules…

#1: A lady does not attempt to come out in London society disguised as her deceased half-sister.

#2: A lady does not become enamored of her guardian; even when his masterful kisses and whispered words of affection tempt her beyond all endurance.

#3: A lady may not climb barefoot from her bedroom onto a rose trellis, nor engage in fisticuffs with riffraff even if it is to rescue street urchins.

#4: No matter how impossible the odds, a lady always gives her hand and her heart—though not necessarily in that order—to the one man who sees her as she truly is and loves her despite her flagrant disobedience of the rules for a lady.
**
Let me say right up front that this is not my favorite book by Jade Lee. There are others that I like better, probably because there was no sex in this book and only a kiss or two. That said this was a good read. This author can take a plot and weave circles in and out to make me stay up all night to finish the book. Not only do her characters have distinct personalities but the story is gripping. The heroine, Gillian/Amanda (she had two names), was a bit too naïve and flighty for me to like her. The hero, Stephen, Earl of Mavenford, was a bit too patriarchal and didactic to like him. However he does become more charming as the book goes on because he is so protective of the flibbertigibbet heroine. Originally published in 2001 by Lee under the pseudonym, Katherine Greyle, this has been reissued as an e-publication. I do recommend this book since the plot was more original than most historical romance offerings.

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Review- Vlad All Over by Beth Orsoff

Title: Vlad All Over

Vlad all Over

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Author: Beth Orsoff

Publisher: Amason Publishing, 2012

Source: Free for review from Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from amazon.com:

Gwen Andersen loves being a schoolteacher, but she isn’t exactly raking in the big bucks. With her bank account shrinking by the minute, she needs a well-paying summer job if she’s going to hold onto the childhood home she inherited from her parents. So when the father of one of her students asks her to fill in as his au pair for the summer, she knows she should be thrilled. Alexander Romanescu is loaded, and Gwen adores his daughter Isabella. Plus, they’re planning to spend the vacation at their ancestral estate—in Romania!

And yet Gwen can’t shake the nagging feeling that saying yes to this man could lead to more than she bargained for. She knows so little about him—and the idea of spending six weeks in the land of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler is more than a little creepy. But the legends of Romania will be the least of her concerns if she doesn’t make some money…fast. And so Gwen says yes: yes to the job, yes to a European excursion…and yes to a summer that will change her path forever.

**

This is not a book about vampires, but Vlad the Impaler, that monstrous ruler from the middle ages, does figure into the plot.  The story starts off rather like a typical Chik-Lit story but it turns much more dramatic after about 100 pages.  It is no longer Chik-Lit, this is a dramatic contemporary story of love and betrayal of friendship and trust and how life is never simple.  Just a heads up, there are some graphic descriptions of dark ages torture and mayhem that is necessary to the plot.  Beth Orsoff does a wonderful job on this original plot and her characters are real people not cartoon stick figures.  There is to be another book, with some very interesting developments, in what appears to be a series that is introduced at the back of this book.  I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

 

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Review- The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

Title: The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage

Genre: Literary fiction

Author: Anne Tyler

Publisher: Ballantine, 2006

Source: Library

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: (behind closed doors)

Description from amazon.com:

They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.

Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.

From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel.

**

I read this book for my neighborhood book club and I did so reluctantly, thinking it would be another literary tome that would have me struggling to finish.  Surprise! I started reading at 8 pm and stayed up until 4 am to finish.  I was riveted to the story of Michael and Pauline.

This is the story of two people who loved each other but were totally unsuited to be married.  Anne Tyler makes every nuance come alive and we ache for these two suffering souls.  It is no surprise that the writing here is exquisite, Tyler won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and has not lost her touch.  The characters in this novel are familiar to all of us, from the bitter, demanding mother-in-law to the disenfranchised daughter, they are not caricatures but real people with real lives and their own seeming insurmountable problems.  Tyler’s perception is also shown in how the character of the son, George, seems to thrive and become successful in spite of the chaos of his home life.

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Review- Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Title: Definitely Not Mr. Darcy

Definitely not Mr. Darcy

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author: Karen Doornebos

Publisher: Penguin, 2011

Source: purchase

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 4

Description from amazon.com:

There’s no place for pride in this Austen misadventure.

Chloe Parker was born two centuries too late. A thirty-nine-year- old divorced mother, she runs her own antique letterpress business, is a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society, and gushes over everything Regency. But her business is failing, threatening her daughter’s future. What’s a lady to do?

Why, audition for a Jane Austen-inspired TV show set in England, of course.

What Chloe thinks is a documentary turns out to be a reality dating show set in 1812. Eight women are competing to snare Mr. Wrightman, the heir to a gorgeous estate, along with a $100,000 prize. So Chloe tosses her bonnet into the ring, hoping to transform from stressed-out Midwest mom to genteel American heiress and win the money. With no cell phones, indoor plumbing, or deodorant to be found, she must tighten her corset and flash some ankle to beat out women younger, more cutthroat, and less clumsy than herself. But the witty and dashing Mr. Wrightman proves to be a prize worth winning, even if it means the gloves are off…

**

For a semi-successful business woman Chloe is not at all attentive to details.  For example she didn’t read the film maker’s contract thoroughly and ended up not on a documentary but on a reality TV show.  It also didn’t occur to her that she would have to give up her cell phone and for three weeks would be without contact with her daughter back home in the states.  Quite a bit did not occur to Chloe and that made for a really delightful reading experience full of humor.  Another plus was the plethora (love that word) of Regency England attitudes, rules and mores.  I have read many Historical Romances set in the Regency period and often the social conventions are alluded to but not really explained fully.  Not so in this book.  We are treated to all those answers that may have been raising questions in our other reading experiences.  The Regency period is eviscerated and we are shown the not so nice and not so convenient way of life.

Karen Doornebos has done her Regency homework.  Her writing is good. Her side characters were fun to read.  If it became a bit silly every now and then it was forgivable for all the pluses this novel delivered.  If you like the Regency period then I’m sure you will enjoy this take on modern vs Regency.

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Review- Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

Title: Speaking From Among the Bones

Speaking From Among the bones
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Random House, January 29, 2013 (available for pre-order)
Source: Free for review from Amazon Vine Program
Rating: 4.5
Sexy Rating: N/A
Description from amazon.com:
Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sisters’ diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s never such thing as an open-and-shut case.
**
You cannot read the Flavia deLuce novels and not become totally enthralled with the heroine. Flavia is a genius, she dabbles dangerously with chemicals in her deceased uncle’s laboratory. Her mother is presumed dead on a mountain climbing expedition. Her father is totally preoccupied with holding the family estate together and her sisters are so self-involved they give little attention to Flavia. Flavia’s comrade is butler/servant of all tasks, Dogger, who always has time to lend her a hand or answer a question. It is easy to see how such a young precocious Miss can gallivant around the village without too much accounting to anyone.
Bradley writes beautifully and often with profundity, for example:

“How odd, I thought: Here were these four great grievers, Father, Dogger, the Vicar, and Cynthia Richardson, each locked in his or her own past and unwilling to share a morsel of their anguish, not even with one another. Was sorrow, in the end, a private thing? A closed container? Something that, like a bucket of water, could be borne only on a single pair of shoulders?”

There is a certain amount of distraction in Flavia’s Chemistry experiments and the ending, although it ties up the mystery as only Flavia could, leaves us with a surprise wondering what will happen next . I will be waiting to read the next Flavia mystery. I’m totally invested in Flavia’s detecting career .

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Review and Question-A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

Title: A Working Theory of Love

A working Theory of Love
Genre: Literary Fiction
Author: Scott Hutchins
Publisher: Penguin, 2012
Source: Free for Review from Amazon Vine Program
Rating: 2
Sexy Rating: 0- alluded to, behind closed doors
Description from amazon.com:
Settled back into the San Francisco singles scene following the implosion of his young marriage just months after the honeymoon, Neill Bassett is going
through the motions. His carefully modulated routine, however, is soon disrupted in ways he can’t dismiss with his usual nonchalance.

When Neill’s father committed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals, journals that are stunning in their detail, and, it must be said, their complete banality. But their spectacularly quotidian details, were exactly what artificial intelligence company Amiante Systems was looking for, and Neill was able to parlay them into a job, despite a useless degree in business marketing and absolutely no experience in computer science. He has spent
the last two years inputting the diaries into what everyone hopes will become the world’s first sentient computer. Essentially, he has been giving it language—using his father’s words. Alarming to Neill—if not to the other employees of Amiante—the experiment seems to be working. The computer actually appears to be gaining awareness and, most disconcerting of all, has started asking questions about Neill’s childhood.

Amid this psychological turmoil, Neill meets Rachel. She was meant to be a one-night stand, but Neill is unexpectedly taken with her and
the possibilities she holds. At the same time, he remains preoccupied by unresolved feelings for his ex-wife, who has a talent for appearing at the most unlikely and unfortunate times. When Neill discovers a missing year in the diaries—a year that must hold some secret to his parents’ marriage and perhaps even his father’s suicide—everything Neill thought he knew about his past comes into question, and every move forward feels impossible to make.

With a lightness of touch that belies pitch-perfect emotional control, Scott Hutchins takes us on an odyssey of love, grief, and reconciliation that shows us how, once we let go of the idea that we’re trapped by our own sad histories—our childhoods, our bad decisions, our miscommunications with those we love—we have the chance to truly be free. A Working Theory of Love marks the electrifying debut of a prodigious new talent.
***********
Okay, if you’ve read the above blurb then you don’t have to read this book. I like the premise of geeks and non-geeks developing artificial intelligence and having a relationship with the computer. Interesting, for sure. But in this book from page 30 I said to myself, “Where is this going.” Then as I read on and on and on I repeated that phrase like a mantra until I finished (yes, I did read the whole thing) and I was still stating the same phrase.
I thought the protagonist was unlikable. His on again off again girlfriend much too young for him although now that I think about it they were probably quite close on the maturity level. The shallowness of every character annoyed me. Perhaps I’m just too old for all of the “finding oneself” nonsense. Scott Hutchins can write characterizations well, perhaps all that I disliked was what he intended.
**
An aside comment and a question:

I don’t read too many books by male authors where there is a running theme of romance/love. Most of the ones I read are written by women with a woman’s sensibility. I’ve noticed that when men write love it is often very clinical, not in the sexual way although that does happen, but in a remote, kind of uninvolved, unemotional way. Am I the only one to notice this? What do you think?

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Favorite Quote: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Before we get to the quote, just let me say that I was inspired by blogger Carol over at http://rakesandrascals.wordpress.com who posts a favorite quote every now and then.  Reading as much as I do, I come across many quotes that really resonate.  So-o-o, I decided not to keep so many to myself. This one is a bit long but I really didn’t want to edit it.  This might inspire you to buy the book, it did for me.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t ‘mean anything’ because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life. Say thank you.

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Review- My Last Empress by Da Chen

Title: My Last Empress

My Last Empress

Genre: General Fiction

Author: Da Chen

 

Source: Free for review from Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from amazon.com:

When Samuel Pickens’ great love tragically loses her life, Samuel travels the globe, Annabelle always on his mind. Eventually, he comes face to face with the mirror image of his obsession in the last place he would expect, and must discover her secrets and decide how far he will go for a woman he loves.
Da Chen immerses the reader in the world of the Chinese imperial palace, filled with ghosts and grief, where bewitching concubines, treacherous eunuchs, and fierce warlords battle for supremacy. Da takes us deeply into an epic saga of 19th century China, where one man searches for his destiny and a forbidden love.

**

This is not the type of book I usually seek out, but Da Chen is a local author and I was curious.  In the beginning pages I thought I would probably not be able to finish this novel.  There were so many euphemisms for genitalia and sex that it was almost laughable.  But I went on and although the subject matter concerning a young teenager smacked of pedophilia I found the story of 19th century china and it’s sensibility, or lack of, fascinating.

It was an okay read for me.  The prose was often poetic and the obsessive madness of the protagonist, Sam Pickens, was well written.

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Review- Waking Up With The Duke by Lorraine Heath

Title: Waking Up With The Duke

waking up with the Duke

Genre: Historical Romance

Author: Lorraine Heath

Publisher: Avon, 2011

Source: Purchase

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from amazon.com:

Renowned for his bedchamber prowess, Ransom Seymour, the Duke of Ainsley, owes a debt to a friend. But the payment expected is most shocking, even to an unrepentant rake—for he’s being asked to provide his friend’s exquisite wife with what she most dearly covets: a child.

Living for pleasure, they will give their hearts to no one . . .

Lady Jayne Seymour, Marchioness of Walfort, is furious that such a scandalous agreement would be made. If she acquiesces, there must be rules: no kissing . . . and, certainly, no pleasure.

Until love takes them by surprise.

But unexpected things occur with the surprisingly tender duke—especially once Lady Jayne discovers the rogue can make her dream again . . . and Ransom realizes he’s found the one woman he truly cannot live without.

**

This is my first Lorraine Heath novel and my thanks go out to Carol, romance blogger over at http://rakesandrascals.wordpress.com .  Carol told me about Lorraine Heath and I was excited to read this book.

This was a beautifully written story full of pathos and some tears from this reviewer.  The romance was slow in starting which gave it an authentic feel.  It kept me turning pages for I had to find out how these two people who were at odds with each other would come together.  It did seem impossible but Heath worked her magic and of course there was a Happily-Ever-After. This was a very dramatic romance novel and I appreciated the deft touch in the plotting.  Truly a very good read.

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Review- The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

Title: The Marriage Bargain

the marriage bargain

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author:  Jennifer Probst

Publisher: Entangled, 2012

Source: Purchase

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from amazon.com:

A marriage in name only…

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend’s older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?

Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…

**

This first book by Probst is well written, has some humorous moments and is a sexy read.  The H/h each have an agenda for this marriage of convenience and each have “rules” on how it will be conducted.  That is where all the trouble starts as they proceed to break the rules and become emotionally attached to each other.

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